"We were thrilled when Niko suggested he compose a piece for the production," says Alex Perez, Menlo's creative arts director. "He is an enormous talent." For the occasion, Mr. Perez suggested Niko create a "grand march" in the style of John Williams.
Niko, 18, who has been composing since the eighth grade, produced the recording using a computer program call "Digital Performance." A demo of the music, paired with a video clip of flying airplanes, was shown to the benefit committee. They loved it.
Niko, the son of Diana and George Korolog of Redwood City, began piano lessons when he was in first grade. He has studied voice, piano and composition. Today he plays piano and "a little bit of drums." His brother, Phillip, is also musical and plays guitar.
Planning to major in music in college, Niko sees his future in composing, not performing. Which college? He's not yet decided.
Niko began composing as part of a project when he was in eighth grade at Nueva Day School in Hillsborough. He says composing is "very simple. It's like a puzzle, a puzzle that you set up for yourself. Every time you complete one (composition), there's always another one waiting for you."
His musical education includes composition classes at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; weekly private composition and theory study with Alexis Aldridge, director of John Adams Young Composers Program; five-week sessions at the Walden School of Music in New Hampshire in 2006 and 2007; and advanced placement music theory at Menlo School.
He has played in the Menlo School Jazz Band and now plays keyboard with his own band, Pyro Scout, whose other members are Clarissa Coultas, Jessi Bauer and Geoffrey Pleiss. Pyro Scout has played for Menlo School events.
Looking to the future, Niko hopes to write music for films and video games, and has already written original music soundtracks for several films. "I wouldn't even mind doing commercials," he says.
Niko is more than music. He has taken and enjoyed engineering classes at Menlo. "I like anything hands-on," he says. "I'm the one who fixes things around the house."